Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was complimentary in his assessment of Sunderland’s performance against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Saturday as the Black Cats held the league leaders to an action-packed, physical and engrossing 0-0 draw.
Chelsea had dropped only four points all season coming into the match against Sunderland, and Sunderland had drawn seven times in the league prior to the match. But Sunderland’s strategy was clear from the outset as they looked to defend in an organized manner to stifle Chelsea’s play. And their strategy paid off as they became the first team this season to stop Chelsea from scoring a goal.
But despite it being a non-scoring match, there was no shortage of drama. Diego Costa was lucky not to see red for his clash with John O’Shea, but couldn’t help himself collecting his 5th yellow card of the season for catching Wes Brown in the face, meaning he will be suspended for Chelsea’s match against Tottenham.
Chelsea’s early pressure, coupled with Sunderland’s defensive strategy led to the visitors camping outside the Sunderland box for the opening minutes. Willian and Branislav Ivanovic both came very close to scoring, with the former’s shot clipping the crossbar.
But Sunderland soon grew into confidence and tried to make things happen. While it would be easy to say that Sunderland only came for a point, the reality is that the Black Cats had three shots on target of their own, and centreback Vergini also hit he crossbar late in the first half as both sides went in to the break on the back of a well-competed first half.
The second half followed the same pattern, although Sunderland’s midfield due of Lee Cattermole and Jack Rodwell appeared to have much better control over the center of the park. Mourinho sent on Loic Remy, Didier Drogba and Andre Schurrle in the second half, but the Black Cats were still holding on.
And with Chelsea throwing men forward in search of the winner, it was Sunderland who had the best chances of the match. First Connor Wickham and then Jozy Altidore and Adam Johnson all tested Thibaut Courtois as the hosts tried to catch the visitors on the counter-attack.
At the end of 93 nervy minutes, both sides had to settle for a draw.
Jose Mourinho was happy with his side’s display, and chose to credit Sunderland’s defensive performance.
“Sunderland defended very, very well. Some people, some football Einsteins, criticise defensive teams, they say defending is a crime but I don’t, they were playing for a clean sheet, they were successful in that objective and I praise them. We tried everything to win but we couldn’t win – and don’t forget we arrived home from Schalke at 5am in midweek.”
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet was pleased with his side’s performance as the Black Cats notched up their eighth draw of the campaign.
“Commitment and desire were the key to getting a point against a top team. They have pace and power so you need to be very good tactically and mentally to cope.
“Everybody wants to play like Bayern Munich and Barcelona but we know it is not possible for us, so we need to play the game a certain way against the top teams.
“Maybe not too many people were expecting that result but inside the dressing room we knew it was possible.”
Chelsea are still unbeaten in the league and with Southampton and Manchester City squaring off on Sunday, perhaps a draw is indeed a point earned than two lost for Mourinho’s men.